Punjab Governor-designate Muhammad Sarwar has made a forthright declaration in favour of the Kalabagh Dam, reflecting the virtually universal incomprehension that such a useful project, which would generate 3800 MW of hydel in a country suffering a power crisis, besides acting as a water storage and flood control device. In an interview to Waqt News, conducted by Editor, Salim Bokhari, here on Thursday, he said it was regrettable that such an important project had been politicised, although KPK and Sindh would have been its major beneficiaries. He said perceptively that the ball was now in the court of PTI Chairman Imran Khan whose party is in power in KPK, a staunch opponent of the multi-billion dollar project. If Imran Khan persuaded the KPK government to withdraw its opposition, Sindh would be greatly weakened in opposition, and since Balochistan is only opposing it because of Sindh and KPK that opposition would be greatly diluted. The Governor-designate also became the first Punjab government official to make plain such open support, with other officials maintaining silence.

This silence allowed the project opponents to make the Water and Power Minister in the Gilani government, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, declare that the dam would never be constructed, even though this was a desire prompted by an alliance of oil importers and owners of flood-irrigated land in Sindh. Whereas the former feared that oil imports to fire power generation plants would be markedly reduced if the dam was built, the latter resented the post-dam conversion to canal irrigation and the subsequent payment of user charges.

Though as Governor, Mr Sarwar will not enjoy executive authority, he will be an important voice. It is to be hoped that he will use that voice in support of the project among the other provinces, as well as the Punjab government. It is also to be hoped that this does not prove a mere on-off response, with caution urged on him later. Is it too much to hope that the Governor-designate will prove the proverbial first drop of rain for the federal government on the issue? After all, the attractions of the dam must have become obvious to a government which wants to end loadshedding as badly as the present one.

If the Governor-designate wishes to achieve anything with his tenure, being an advocate for a much maligned, but highly beneficial, project, would be a good choice. He will find unsuspected wellsprings of support, and that his wish to be the people’s Governor, will thus be fulfilled.